Monday, June 9, 2014

Cambodian temple raiders - the lost story

Sorry for not posting earlier, but somehow this story got lost. Also the pictures with Bernd on it. He was really upset about it, but all restoring of lost files did not help.

After X-mas we left Thailand and got on a bus to Cambodia (yes we still did not tell about our adventures there). The bus only got us to the border of Thailand and getting across reminded us to our journey to Myanmar. Also that we had to cross the street because the traffic is going on the right side in Cambodia.

We decided to stay at a very special guest house in Siem Reap, Bernd and I got a hint for this special guest house at the border to CambodiaThe Mad Monkey, a guest house for young people offering a pool and a bar at the roof top, sounds good and when we got to see the place it was as great and interesting as described.

In Siem Reap we had the big plan to go to Angkor Wat, the big temple complex. For sure walking won't be a good choice, you can walk around there for hours and still not reach all the temples.
Before starting our tour we found a used but still valid ticket from another traveler at the guest house. There was a picture of the guy on it, but we hoped that for the Asians we Europeans would look like each other. Like it is said from our side about the Asians and the opposite.
And it worked. We got in there without needing to pay.
First we got early in the morning to the Angkor Wat temple, the biggest of the temples. It was told to be very beautiful during the sunrise, unfortunately the sky was cloudy so no special sunrise this time.

After the sunrise we did take a look around in the big complex, must have been amazing being here in the past.
Again we some stone piles, sometimes we were curious if they used some kind of glue to get them this high. Bernd was close to smash one of these piles down but I managed to stop him, telling him that he for sure will get caught and be punished for doing that.
Also nice at this temples were the long empty halls, surprisingly not so many people around, during we were waiting for the sunrise it felt so crowded, that we thought we could not make a single step running into someone or having to wait in a long line of people.

From Angkor Wat we got to Angkor Thom, for us it felt more like the monkey temple from the Jungle Book, not only the first impression of the building at all, there were also monkeys around.
Before we entered the ruins Bernd had the bad idea to buy some pineapple and the next bad idea was to hand them over to me when we entered the temple. Only a few steps inside and one of the monkeys got to me and was not like a dog begging for the pineapple, he was almost assaulting me.
I let the monkey jump for a while before I let him get what he desired. Was not willing to fight for hours because of some left parts of the pineapple.
Especially we wanted to take a look around and not only stay at the "entrance" to the temple. At least this fighting with the monkey more made us think about the Jungle Book and start singing King Louies song "oh shubidu i wanna be like you.. ".

At the next temple we did much enjoy climbing around. Not like in Europe you are allowed to leave the path and find your own way. And it got more crowded around here, so it was easier to climb up at the temple walls instead of taking the stairs also we got a great view from the top of the temple.

The next amazing place was Ta Prohm, a temple ruin in the jungle. In the past they were taking some scenes for one of the Tomb Raider movies, not sure which one. For sure it was a good choice to take the scenes at this wonderful place. We both liked this temple most here.
At some parts Bernd got scared and did not want to go any further, so we had to go away from the specific place and find another way trhough the ruins, but it did not realy look that dangerous.
The temple was not just breaking down from the time also the nature was going to get back what was taken away in the past.  Making the temple look even more amazing.

We spent so many time walking around in all the temples that it became already evening and we hoped to at least see a nice sunset. Hoping that it won't happen like in the morning. At least the day was not all the time cloudy like the morning. And at Prae Roup Temple we got a very good view for the sunset. Interesting was here that all the other people were waiting at the edge for the sunset, it was more interesting to see some parts of the temple during the sunset.
When we came back to Siem Reap we were not as tired as expected and went into town to have a good night with live music and other travelers we met.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Diving and jungle fun

We left the north and got more to the southeast of Thailand to spent some time at the beach and I wanted to go diving.
For doing that we got to Koh Chang, not too far away from the Cambodian border.
The weather was already great when we got closer and on the ferry to the island we already enjoyed a sunbath.
At the island we took one of those group taxis looking like a pickup to get to the lonely beach, which was not really lonely. Surprisingly we found a few metres away from the spot we got off the taxi we a great place to stray at, the staff was very nice and the rooms very cheap. Well nit everything was perfect, it was not that silent around there, because the guesthouse was in the centre of the walking street, but we did not get here to sleep all the time. More to do some activities, diving and to enjoy some good music. What made that place even more attractive, every evening they have live music and not only this annoying house music you hear at beach parties.
First thing we were this time doing was not going to the beach, because I wanted to get a good company offering dives around the island. After that we went to the beach, jumping into the water and seeing a nice sunset.
We were having a good time and as a joke I told Bernd that I could catch the sun, he did not belief me so I proofed it to him.
The next day I went for diving, again with some teaching, the first diving spot was at a ship wreck and with the current certificate I was not allowed to go that deep, so the idea of only making fun dives changed to make also an adventure dive and getting another certificate.
Later again I met Bernd at the beach, where he found a new friend. His friend was looking like a snow man but actuality it was a sandman.
The evening we spent at our guesthouse and when the live gig was over we checked out the beach bars, as expected we only got to hear house music, what did not satisfy us. So we did not stay too long there.
At the next day we wanted to go into the jungle, not tracking this time. On the way we stopped at a nice beach, with some trees growing and staying in the sea. It did not look like they have been on the ground
Around in this area we found a sign scaring Bernd to death. He has for sure seen to many of those apocalypse movies with monkeys spreading a poison or virus.
It took me a while to calm him down and another time when saw some monkeys jumping around in the trees.
Luckily there were no monkeys around the treetop climbing park we were heading to. And he needed all his concentration for the climbing so he won't see the monkeys around us.

At the end of our trip to Koh Chang we saw a very great bar looking like a tree house, not on top of the tree but still very nice.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Myanmar, we are going to Myanmar

After our road trip through the north in Thailand we finally made it to the border to Myanmar. Still we hoped to get a chance to travel through the restricted areas, flying was not an option for us. Bernd was so excited getting across the boarder by foot. Most of the times we got across on an airport or by ship, so this is the first time that we were not using any vehicle.

Across the border it felt a lot more different, in Mae Sai was not so much going on and in Tachilek were so many people around that we got the feeling to leave the boarder town as soon as possible. We only had to walk a few metres when a guy showed up and asked us where we want to go and what we want to do. Well we both had the idea to talk with him and give it a try, still cautious. You never know if they want to rip you off.
But he was friendly and seemed not to be one of this persons, like most of them, but it felt really different. He let us to an official exchange office and when we checked later we got there exactly the course shown on the Internet. Then he lead us the way to some travel agencies to check for a flight to Mandalay, he also told us that there is no way through the country. As expected also here the flight tickets are much to expensive, so we did not buy one.
He told us that we can go to Keng Tung if we do not only stay here in Tachilek. We took an offered motorbike taxi for a fair price and the guy leading us said goodbye and left, so no ripping. He did not even ask for a tip or anything else, maybe he was working for the government.
We took the bus to get to Keng Tung, it was a rather long ride to get there, going up and down through a beautiful landscape and several stops. They did not only stop to let the passengers take care of some business and eating, they also stopped to pour some water at the tires and the engine to cool it down.
At the stop we took a closer look at the village and how the people live here, before we got to go back to the bus.

The bus trip was longer then expected, the roads were not in a so good condition and it the bus was always going very slow when it was going down a mountain. What else we recognised during the trip was, that there are soldiers with machine guns staying around on the street, several kilometres away from the next one. But it did not feel dangerous at all. Also what first was making us mad, the behaviour of the people on the bus, at the stops some of them stayed in the bus, bought things and dropped their litter outside to the floor. For sure we knew that the people are not that educated about taking care of the nature, but that is too much, but at the end it turned out, that the people working at the stops sweep the trash away and put it in bins. So not only dropping their litter everywhere.
It was already getting dark before we arrived, too bad that we were not at a good spot to take a good picture of the sunset.
In Keng Tung we hoped to find a cheap and nice place to stay it, we did not check for any guesthouses in advance or read anything about this town, especially we did not even understand the name of the town before we left Tachilek. But there we found close to the bus stop a nice guesthouse with rather luxury rooms. Did not expect to find something like this here.
After settling up we got outside to find a good local restaurant on the street, it was not far away and we asked some motorbike taxi drivers if they know a place, what was not so easy to tell them because they barely spoke English, but very kind and willing to help us. Not far away we found a small restaurant and got a very good dinner for less money. When we decided to leave the restaurant the family running it invited us to drink a cup of tea with them and sit next to the fire pot. A very good idea, here in the north it was much colder.
First thing we did the next day was checking for possibilities yo travel through the country, asking for a bus or train connection, but there was non. So it really is a dead end when you do not have your own vehicle and then it may be possible that they won't let you pass through the checkpoints at the street.
We were not to sad about it, we got the chance to explore the north and it may have been better then the other places in Myanmar. From other travelers we heared before coming to Myanmar that the places more down in the south are already more touristic and they got in the temple annoying ugly decorations, ruining the pleasure of sightseeing.
We went to the market place, the place where we got to see the first other European looking person around. Here were no tourists at all. No one offering you a Tuk-Tuk ride or a massage.
From the market we went to Keng Khom the first Buddhist temple we visited here. As expected it was a nice place and no blinking lights or stupid looking stuff around ruining the view.

Close by to the temple was kind of a fishing pond, a chain of lights was hanging on small poles above the water, looks like the people do make some celebrations at the lake.
From the pond we walked up a small street and got a better view above the city and got to Yet Twah Mhu a big Buddha statue.

not far away we saw a very big surprise, a Christian Church. We did not even think about the chance that there will be some other religious buildings around, only Buddhist.
The next place we wanted to go to was Nong Tung, the big lake in Keng Tung, to get there we wanted to take a shortcut through a small alley, but it appeared to be a private way, the people living there were so friendly and let us walk through their garden and on the way leading around the lake.

The lake was very beautiful, was not inviting for a swim, well it was much to cold to think about going swimming and laying in the sun. Also on our next way we got some assistance to find a shortcut, the people around here were all so friendly to us and no one was interested in getting our money, felt so relaxing. The path lead through some back gardens and at the end along a small alley, we already were thinking that the guy telling us to go this way was wrong, when we suddenly reached the end. Everything fine as expected. And also a nice experience.
Up at the hill was the Wat Jong Kham, the last temple we wanted to see here. It was still closed so we only could see the golden pagoda.
We did not stay very long in Myanmar, because Bernd was freezing all the time and wanted to get back more to the south.
So at the end we can say about Myanmar, that it is absolutely worth going to the north and missing the things we wanted to see in the south, well we can get to Myanmar again and get to the more touristic places.